Often the drama of the people of Uganda is to survive in a country where poverty is a continuing, daily reality.
Lynn Weir, a resident of Lubbock who works as a substitute teacher, found an opportunity in July to teach the basics of agriculture to public school students in the Kampala area of Uganda. She came back exhilarated by the students' enthusiasm for life and education.
Weir found in that tiny landlocked country of East Africa, where about 43 million people live at or near the equator, a hunger not just for food and life, but for knowledge.
"They've got so little, and they try to use every little space to produce food to be able to have value-added to resell it, or whatever," she remembers. "I went over there to show the youth how they can grow their own food, and what they can do to help their chances of reselling it."
She was surprised to learn that things Lubbock area residents know almost innately was an eye-opening experience for the Ugandan students.
"The first day I was there, they said their plants were not growing, what can we do. I said, look at this soil, how dry it is. Let's put some water on it. And from Monday to Wednesday, they looked like completely different plants, " Weir said.
She hadn't at all planned to become a teacher for two weeks in Uganda, but she did have the background and education for it. Her father was a farmer in the Rule area, and she had come to Texas Tech as a student in 1978, then stayed to graduate with a master's degree in business marketing.
"Last summer, there was a group — over 3,000 people from all over Africa — that came to various universities in the United States. Texas Tech hosted 25 of the students from the Mandela Young Fellowship people.
"I'm friends with Dr. (Amy) Boren, a professor at Texas Tech, so I just got the opportunity to interact and do things with them. I just kind of became their personal chauffeur. We would take them shopping, and they started calling me Mama Lynn before it was all over. I just became friends with them."
In an application process recommended by Joel Ankunda of Uganda, Weir was chosen for an expense-paid exchange trip to the Kampala area, where she could share her knowledge.
"I had just laughed and thought, never in a million years would I be chosen. We did this in January or February, and honestly, I had forgotten about it. Dr. Boren and Texas Tech got me involved," she said.
The students in Uganda were eager for instruction, and even the idea of irrigating their plants was a revelation to them.
"They loved it, and they were so appreciative for any little thing I would tell them," she said. "Of course, I had to teach them how to do the guns up. They thought that was the most fun, getting their guns up."
She said of the watering project that so amazed the Ugandans, "If I were to tell some kids here, 'Hey, your plants need water, kids here would look at you and say, 'Well, duh!' But these kids were so appreciative. At the school, they were from age seven to 16."
Ironically, she remembers that her first love definitely wasn't farming.
"My Dad was a farmer, so I kind of grew up with my little family ... I wanted to get as far away from farming as I could. I wanted nothing to do with it. Then, I had a job here where I worked on a farm, and learned bits and pieces there, but most was just common sense. I did do some research before I went over there — and had some ideas — but most of it for anybody in Lubbock was just common sense."
She encountered poverty in Uganda as never before. "You take the worst circumstances you've ever seen here and that is high living compared to what it is over there."
She said, "They had what they called their garden ... they built a trough, and we put some plants in that. We also took three-liter bottles, poked holes at the bottom for drainage, and put soil in and planted in that where they could hang them and plant in them. They could take those to the house and transplant them, and I showed them how to transplant."
She also was able to teach them composting techniques.
Appliances were primitive: "Instead of a stove or an oven, it's a rock. It looks like a big rock that's been hollowed out, with a hole in one side. That's their stove and oven. Everybody has one."
Not every student in Uganda is so stricken with poverty. There are the children of ambassadors and rulers. But even those are taught survival techniques:
"What they were trying to teach those guys was basically that mama and daddy may not always be around," Weir said. "What happens if all the wealth is gone and you have to survive. So, it's teaching them the basics of how to survive."
They also were learning techniques of agriculture.
The Ugandan families that Weir helped with her knowledge of agriculture were appreciative, and accepted her as an honored guest. One woman created a dress for her that is only given to those who are greatly esteemed.
"These people were so appreciative, so kind, so hospitable," Weir said. "They took nothing for granted, and they just wanted to soak up absolutely everything they could. There's a hunger for education — probably even a bigger hunger than starving for food — they want knowledge. They want to learn everything they can."